When Erma Rabourn was a young child living in rural Saskatchewan she didn’t have access to a library. A government-run Library by Post program delivered books to her once a month via the railway. Today, at age 97, Rabourn is once again receiving books at her home each month, but now it’s via the Powell River Public Library’s Books on Wheels program.
“As a girl I used to walk two-and-a-half miles to a country schoolhouse and in winter I didn’t go at all since there were no roads,” Rabourn remembered. “It was a real treat when books would come in the mail,” she said. “I would sit in the corner of the kitchen by the stove where it was nice and warm and read.”
Now, even though Rabourn lives only a few blocks from the library, her unsteady walk keeps her at home most days. “I should have exercised more,” she said of her current condition, “but I’ve always loved to sit and read.”
Rabourn also loves to write and is a published author. Her latest book, Hurry Up with the Music, is a wonderful collection of short stories she published four years ago at the age of 94. It is available for borrowing at the library and for purchase at Breakwater Books. “My best effort, though,” Rabourn said, “was my Rhubarb cookbook, which has lots of nice stories, too.” She is thinking of republishing it since there are no copies left.
In addition to writing, Rabourn spent much of her career as a country school teacher and enjoyed a 67-year marriage before her husband Charlie died in 1996. Five years ago, when she was visiting her youngest daughter in Powell River, Rabourn found that when it came time to leave she didn’t want to go. “I love it here,” she said. “The climate is beautiful and I’ve even grown to like the fog.”
Rabourn still likes to read in a corner of her kitchen, so she really appreciates the Books on Wheels program which she’s been a recipient of for about two years.
The monthly program delivers to private homes, such as Rabourn’s, on the second Wednesday of each month. Deliveries to participating residents at Olive Devaud, Kiwanis Garden Manor and Kiwanis Village take place the last Wednesday of each month. Library assistant Sandra Tonn, who coordinates the program, chooses materials according to each patron’s needs and preferences, and volunteers provide their time and their wheels to deliver new material and pick up old material.
The program allows the same borrowing privileges as any patron, which means people who can’t make it into the library, due to illness, injury or other physical challenges, can enjoy books of regular and large print, audio books, magazines, DVDs and CDs.
Tonn says she really enjoys the relationships she has with both the volunteers and, through telephone and email, many of the Books on Wheels patrons as well. “I can’t imagine not having access to a lot of books, so I feel grateful to be able to help people out in such a meaningful way,” she said, “Plus, it’s a fun challenge to find materials that suit each patron.”
Long-time volunteer Garry Clark said, “It’s so rewarding to see the looks on the people’s faces when you show up with their books. It makes them so happy.”
“It’s a great service,” Rabourn said, “Sandra takes awfully good care of me and the volunteers are very nice.”
Rabourn’s life-long love of reading continues as she attempts to master and enjoy the use of audio books since her eyesight has become poor due to macular degeneration. She confides that she’d like to live to be 100, and will no doubt still look forward to the arrival of books at her door and the prospect of a good read in her kitchen.